Amphibious Excavator Guide

Excavators Equipped With Amphibious Tracks and Undercarriages

This Article Includes

  • What is an Amphibious Excavator?
  • What is an Amphibious Excavator (AKA Water Excavator) Used For?
  • Amphibious Excavation Used For Environmental Remediation

What is an Amphibious Excavator AKA Water Excavator?

Amphibious excavators are similar to standard tracked excavators in that they both have a rotating cab, and boom/stick/bucket assembly for digging and moving material. The amphibious excavator provides added versatility and is also designed for use in swamps, wetlands, rivers, harbors, and many other types of waterways. These excavators are also used to perform a function called dredging. Dredging involves the removal and transport of sediment that is typically located at the bottom of bodies of water such as lakes, harbors, rivers, ponds and other types of water environments.

Besides the typical boom/stick/bucket assembly, amphibious excavators include an amphibious undercarriage, sealed pontoons, and a buoyancy tank which allows the excavator to flow on the surface of the waterway. Also included in the design of this excavator are main hydraulic pumps with traveling motors to help propel the excavator through the water. The added features of this excavator type is what allows this machine to be used in the most demanding water environments.

Excavator SHOOTOUT: Standard vs. Amphibious

Although standard excavators and amphibious excavators are very similar in some respects, the amphibious excavator provides a far greater value because they can do many other tasks that standard excavators cannot handle. Both excavator types are great choices for bulk excavation jobs, track operated, and available in many comparable different sizes. Each excavator type runs on two tracks that allow the weight of the excavator to be distributed more evenly which makes them well suited for soft terrain; and both can be fitted with either a standard length boom/stick assembly or long reach for extending further distances.

The difference is that the amphibious excavator can operate in wet environments that are typical of regions where marshlands, rivers, swamps, wetlands, and many other types of waterways are more common. The standard excavator can operate in water up to 3-ft., while the amphibious excavators are ideal for water up to 6-ft. in depth. Amphibious excavators are also better in environments where soft mud is prevalent.

Amphibious excavators are also a better choice when there is a high risk of exposing an underground water source, which can overcome a standard excavator causing it to become submerged and unretrievable. For any environment that involves water, or the potential for water to emerge, the amphibious excavator is the best choice.


What is an Amphibious Excavator Used For?

Amphibious excavators, also referred to as marsh buggies, are some of the most versatile excavators on the market. They can go beyond where most other excavators can go, and they can do most everything other excavators can do… and more. Amphibious excavators are the only choice when doing jobs in wet environments – ranging from water-saturated mud to other types of soils, to maneuvering waterways that are up to 6-ft. in depth. Some amphibious excavators are advertised to be capable of operating in much deeper water. Amphibious excavators are commonly used for any application that requires digging and removal of materials that are located at the bottom of swamps, ponds, rivers, harbors and many other types of waterways.

One of the most popular applications for amphibious excavators is dredging, where sentiment is removed from the bottom of bodies of water where a specific water depth must be maintained to allow the passage of transportation barges, boats and ships. Maintaining the proper depths of a waterway can increase navigation efficiency for water transportation. Dredging can include a pump and cutterhead that is affixed to the end of the stick; this configuration allows for very precise dredging to avoid undue damage to the bottom and shoreline of a waterway. For applications where mass sediment removal is needed a barge can be used to load the sediment for quick transfer to a dewatering or disposal site. Sediment, as it is being removed from the bottom of a waterway, can be pumped with the use of a pipeline directly to a predetermined location for disposal up to thousands of feet away.

Common applications include:
  • Vegetation control
  • Dredging – removing sediment and contaminates from waterways
  • Coastal restoration
  • Environmental remediation
  • Ice-breaking and management
  • Creating marshes and animal habitats
  • Constructing pipeline and underwater cables
  • Remote worksites requiring navigation through difficult strands of water and soft terrain
  • Erosion control and prevention
  • Road building through wetlands
  • Flood protection and maintenance

Amphibious Excavation Used For Environmental Remediation

Across many industries, there are a lot of jobs that can involve contaminating the environment with hazardous substances. There are rules and regulations that, when contamination occurs, the organization responsible must address and alleviate the contamination. If contamination has occurred, the typical process is to involve environmental remediation specialists who are experts with the applicable regulations and standards. Remediation specialists are knowledgeable regarding the regulations and standards, and the process of conducting a site assessment to determine the extent of contamination and what possible steps are to remedying the damage.

Remediation Process
The remediation process consists of conducting a Phase-1 Assessment of the situation, which includes sampling the water and soil. Then, depending on the type and severity of the problem, and course of action is chosen to correct the situation and bring the immediate environment back to a natural condition. Quite often, if the damage has occurred to a body of water, or a shoreline dredging is used to collect the affected sediments and materials at the bottom of the waterway. This material is then moved to an area where a process of decontamination is applied to remove the contaminants from the material, or the material is disposed of in a manner where the material does not cause any further contamination of the environment.

Amphibious excavators are used in this dredging process, and with the use of either a bucket or dredge pump attached to the end of the boom/stock assembly, they remove the contaminated materials for relocation. Amphibious excavators are well suited to work in wet and watery environments. Designed with an amphibious undercarriage, they can maneuver through water up to 6-ft. in depth to access the area that requires excavation. With a dredge pump attachment, they can remove the contaminated and polluted sediment and material from a waterway with surgical precision. The cutterhead at the end of the dredge pump, along with a GPS positioning device can ensure only remove the material that must be extracted, avoiding any further damage to the surrounding environment. If the water is also contaminated, dredge pumps are used to pump the water through a filtration process so the water can be decontaminated and returned to the body of water from which it came.

Once the remediation process is complete the environment undergoes a final assessment to ensure that the damage that was initially caused has been remedied and restored to its original state. Without the use of amphibious excavators and the proper dredging attachments, the environmental remediation process would not be possible. Amphibious excavators and dredge pumps are critical components for restoring damaged marsh and wetlands, rivers, harbors, and many other types of waterways to their original condition.


Optimize Your Excavator.

How HAWK Excavator Can Help

Considering all of the challenges a construction company faces daily, from project to project, it is critical that your operation be outfitted with the best excavation equipment available.

HAWK Excavator is a Manufacturer of Long Reach Excavator Kits, RTK GPS Position Systems, Amphibious Undercarriages, and Modular Barges. We have decades of experience with heavy-duty excavator equipment to enhance and optimize excavation projects worldwide.

Top Product Upgrades for Excavators

All HAWK products are simple to install to your excavator to assist with a wide range of excavation, construction, and dredging projects.  

The top requested product is a conversion from standard to long reach.

For more on the value that HAWK Excavator can provide, Go To:    

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an amphibious excavator, and how does it differ from standard excavators?
An amphibious excavator, a water excavator, swamp track excavator, or marsh excavator is a specialized type designed for operating in wetland, swampy, or marshy terrain. Unlike standard excavators, amphibious excavators feature specialized undercarriages with marsh tracks or pontoons, allowing them to float and navigate through soft or shallow water while performing excavation and material handling tasks.

What are the advantages of using an amphibious excavator in wetland or marsh environments?
Using an amphibious excavator in wetland or marsh environments offers several benefits, including increased mobility and accessibility to water-based work sites. These excavators can operate effectively in soft or unstable terrain without sinking, providing access to areas inaccessible by conventional equipment. Additionally, amphibious excavators minimize environmental impact by reducing ground pressure and disturbance to sensitive ecosystems.

How do I choose the right amphibious excavator for my project?
Choosing the right amphibious excavator depends on factors such as the water’s depth, the terrain’s softness, and the project’s specific requirements. Machine size, lifting capacity, and hydraulic capabilities are essential when selecting an amphibious excavator to ensure safe and efficient operation in wetland or marsh environments. Our team of experts can assess your project needs and recommend the most suitable amphibious excavator configuration to meet your requirements.

What types of attachments can be used with an amphibious excavator?
Amphibious excavators can be equipped with various attachments to suit different applications in wetland or marsh environments. Common attachments include buckets, hydraulic breakers, grapples, thumbs, and augers. These attachments enhance the versatility and functionality of the amphibious excavator, allowing operators to perform a wide range of tasks such as excavation, material handling, and vegetation clearing with precision and efficiency.

Can amphibious excavators be rented or purchased?
Amphibious excavators are available for rent and purchase, depending on the duration and frequency of use and budget considerations. Renting an amphibious excavator is a cost-effective option for short-term projects or occasional use, while purchasing may be more economical for long-term or frequent use. Our team can provide guidance on the best option for your specific requirements and help you select the right amphibious excavator for your wetland or marsh project.

What maintenance is required for amphibious excavators operating in wetland or marsh environments?
Regular maintenance is essential for keeping amphibious excavators in optimal condition for safe and efficient operation in wetland or marsh environments. Inspect the equipment regularly for signs of wear, corrosion, or damage, and address any issues promptly to prevent further deterioration. Clean the machine thoroughly after each use to remove debris, mud, and vegetation that may accumulate in the tracks or components. Lubricate moving parts and components according to the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure smooth operation and minimize the risk of corrosion in wet conditions.